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Bayou Restaurant (b/w The Frequency)

In a word: French Quarter meets Dairyland.

The specs: #0424
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Cap Times, 77 Square, Isthmus: 3/17/09 and 5/22/09, Decider, Ruppert Food Blog, EatDrinkMadison.com, TDPF; official web site, Beck's Bars web site, The Bayou on Urbanspoon

Latest Bayou news and reviews

JM ate the shrimp po'boy with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the gumbo z'herbes.
The bill was $18.75, or $9.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Bayou Restaurant an A-; Nichole gave Bayou Restaurant a B (see our grading rubric).

The Bayou has been in the works for over six years. The proprietor of several blue-collar bars seems to have poured a lot of love and sweat into creating a New Orleans courtyard-style feel inside a tall, narrow space in downtown Madison. The place is impressive in a gimmicky way (we found the drink octopus over the bar particularly weird). The Bayou has a few rough edges to polish, however.

When we arrived at the absurdly early hour of 5pm, the staff outnumbered patrons. Yet there were long periods during which our glasses were empty and it took forever to get our bill. The corker was that our server, after checking every till and colleague in the house, wasn't able to make change - never a good sign (cf. El Corral). The proof's in the pudding, though.

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Yay for greens in the gumbo z'herbes. This stew had a decent amount of heat balanced with rich vegetable flavors, not too salty nor bitter. It came with a scoop of very white, very sticky rice and an excellent piece of toasted bread from Leidenheimer bakery in the bayou.

Shrimp Po'boy

JM's shrimp po'boy was crunchy and substantial but never painful to eat, which is a tough line to walk. The shrimp were well spiced without losing their shrimp flavor.  The veggies were fresh and unobtrusive and the sandwich finished pretty cleanly as well. The fries were average, though more potato-ey than most. 

Bonus review: The Frequency

Frequency pizza

JM, Nichole, Adam and Anonymous ate a Frequency supreme pizza.

This review comes courtesy of the Dan Potacke Show, where Nichole and JM reviewed food live as a piece of performance art/interview. The pizza was probably good when it came out of the oven, but had lost a little something after an hour or so. Nichole thought it was exactly what it was trying to be, while JM somewhat bemoaned the Supreme-ness of the topping combination (though he admits that he approved of the selection on the front end). JM also declared it was "Better than Orv's." Frequency owner Darwin and his staff are great and the drinks (admittedly why one goes to a bar) were good and varied. We gave the pizza a B and B-, but the experience and the fun of being on stage merited an A+.

Comments

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Went there a few weeks ago....it was very busy at lunch but the service was just ok. As for the food....nothing fantastic...the sweet potato fries were terrible. Not cooked right and had a taste of charcoal. I think they need to perfect their technique of cooking those. I can't imagine this place being around too long.

Tried the shrimp po' boy and seafood gumbo. The seafood gumbo had a nice portion and was very good. The food here is probably better than New Orleans Take-Out. Prices were fine. This place is pretty colorful--but so are the interiors of restaurants in the French Quarter. Most NO restaurants have pretty cheesy paint jobs, so this place is right in line with that. Will return to try a different sandwich sometime soon.

I want Bayou to be good. It's so awesome that they get their bread from Leidenheimer, since the bread is usually the weakest part of most northern po' boys. Now if they would just get the inside right. I mean, all you need is shrimp (or whatever), lettuce, pickles, mayo and hot sauce...I think they served the mayo on the side, which just confused me.

Most of the food I've tried there was way too hot (as in spicy) without having enough underlying flavor, but here's hoping that'll improve after they've been cooking gumbo in the same pots for a few months. :)

Had an oyster po'boy a while back, was unimpressed. Had a catfish po'boy tonight, was much happier.

The red beans and rice and chicken-sausage jambalaya are both tasty, but very spicy for off-the-rack. Both well-priced for size and meat quantity.

Went there a couple weeks after they opened. Service was not-so-much - hardly anyone there but we got seating upstairs in a completely empty room where it was difficult for our server to check on us. Fresh oysters were served at near room temperature and when we complained, the chef came up to explain that they didn't have all their dishware in yet. Huh? However, he comped us our first order and brought another on ice. The rest of the food was OK, nothing special. Overall, better than New Orleans Take-Out but still has a long way to go, IMO.

Went to the Bayou last night to try the food. Had been there for a couple visits for drinks, liked the atmosphere, so came back for dinner. Staff was friendly, but sometimes a little slow (its tough to please everybody though!). I tried a margarita and noticed that it was served in a plastic glass (as were my fellow patron's drinks, even beer!). Thought that was a bit wierd. Didn't really like the drink, a bit to tart. Got some oysters to start, actually really good. Get the bloody mary sauce with them, a nice touch. We all tried Po-Boy's, I tried the one with shrimp and crawfish with the remulade side sauce. The sandwich was AWESOME. The breading on the seafood was very tasty, the sweet potato french fries were fantastic (slight spice and nice consistency, not too floppy or crispy). This was my first Po-Boy, so I really have no basis for comparison, but i was very happy with the meal. My only complaints are the drinks were not the best, the plastic glasses give a sort of college apartment feel, and the service was a bit slow from time to time. I however, will most certainly come back there for a great sandwich and oysters! Pricing was affordable as well. Worth the trip!

I gotta agree with Mike. The crawfish po' boy here has quickly become my favorite sandwich in Madison. Besides being delicious and enormous, it's actually more affordable than a majority of the mediocrities one finds around the square. The restaurant, though, can be very inconsistent. The catfish po' boy occasionally comes undercooked (a big no-no for catfish), and many of the other items can be hit or miss depending on the evening. I hope this place makes it--sandwiches of the caliber of their fried crawfish have the potential go on to become local classics after a moderate period of time. Also, not to twist the knife, but the servings here have to be two to three times the size of NOTO, of equal quality, and for less money.

I threw a surprise birthday party here over the weekend. No food, just drinks. I have to say the staff went above and beyond to help me out. It was a great time, with good drinks and a really fun atmosphere. I've had dinner here before, which I'd definitely rate as one of the best sandwiches ever, and I'll especially make a point to be back to eat after the impressive service this weekend.

Have had some great meals here, as posted above, but they recently raised the prices, halved the portions, changed the bread, and charged me $4 for a PICK UP order. The fries were extremely greasy too, a sign of underheated oil. None of the above are smart business practices if they want to maintain return customers.

Started enjoing Bayou soon after it opened. At first good service and GREAT food. Referred lots of people there. Sorry to say it's gone down hill: Poor service, average food (at best) They took a good thing and lost repeat customers after several poor experiences.

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